More armed officers are patrolling the streets of Lancashire than last year.
Many police forces across England and Wales are deploying armed officers to more incidents because of rising violent crime and the continued threat of terrorism.
The latest Home Office statistics show there were 102 armed officers in the force in March.
This was up 16 per cent from the previous headcount one year earlier, when there were 88.
At the same time, the number of armed operations rose to 122 in 2018-19.
Over the past 10 years, armed operations reached a peak of 245 in 2009-10.
The Home Office figures show two-fifths of police forces in England and Wales saw a reduction in the number of armed police officers in their ranks over the last year.
This is despite a £143m government grant to increase the numbers and capacity of firearms units.
In five forces, the figure reached a 10-year low.
Yet overall, the number of armed officers in the 12 months to March reached 6,653 – the highest number since 2012.
Even though call-outs have increased as well, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said officers only fire weapons as a “last resort”.
The organisation’s spokesman for armed policing, Simon Chesterman, said there were only 13 occasions when officers pulled the trigger.
He added: “A mark of the quality of training that armed officers receive is how infrequently they have to use their weapons, and it is a testament to the professionalism of our armed officers that only 0.06 per cent of armed deployments end with a firearm actually being discharged.”
The union representing rank-and-file officers, the Police Federation of England and Wales, shared this view.
Steve Hartshorn, the federation’s lead on firearms, said: “We need to remain vigilant and support these officers knowing their training is of the highest standard in times of rising violent crime.”
He added: “There is still some way to go nationally in the firearms uplift as they can only recruit from an already diminished pool of officers and carrying a firearm isn’t for everyone.”